It'll be a day of song, dance, praise and lots of food. On Saturday, the Greater Ridgecrest Community will hold its annual Juneteenth Celebration and Fish Fry.
And to get the party started, two of the community's standouts, NFL players Dexter McCluster of the Kansas City Chiefs and Marcus Paschal of the Baltimore Ravens, will return.
The all-day event, coordinated by the Friends of Ridgecrest and the Greater Ridgecrest Crime Watch, kicks off at 9 a.m. with a parade. McCluster and Paschal will serve as grand marshals.
Starting at the Greater Ridgecrest YMCA, 1801 119th St. N, the pair will lead some cars, floats and several bands from area churches through the historically African-American community bordered by Taylor Park and the Pinellas Trail.
"Juneteenth is a day African-Americans celebrate freedom as well as recognize our achievements,'' said Wanda McCawthan, one of the event coordinators. "On Saturday, we'll be honoring successes, like the NFL players. We'll also honor the community's high school and college graduates for 2010.''
Juneteenth dates to June 19, 1865, when 2,000 Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas. Granger brought the news that the Civil War had ended and that the slaves were free. Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. First held in Texas in 1867, Juneteenth celebrations spread slowly across the South, where other slaves had learned on widely varying dates that they were free.
After the parade, a fish fry with music and family activities will be held at the YMCA. The swimming pool will be open.
The Friends of Ridgecrest and Greater Ridgecrest Crime Watch have been holding a Juneteenth celebration for about 14 years.
"We need to celebrate Juneteenth because it's part of our past, and it's a guide to help us with our future,'' said Tasker Beale Jr., president of Friends of Ridgecrest. "We look back on what went on in the 1800s, and we can better understand what leads people to do the different things in their life.''
This is only the second year at the YMCA. Before 2009, the Juneteenth celebration was at Ridgecrest Park. The unpredictability of June weather led organizers to move it indoors.
"It's an ideal event for the YMCA because it fits in with our mission of serving the community,'' said Stephanie Zaragoza, executive director of the Ridgecrest YMCA. "And we're excited to host this very important African-American holiday.''